Esapekka Lappi will lead a youthful three-car M-Sport Ford line-up in this season’s FIA World Rally Championship after his expected move to the British team was confirmed today (2 January).
The 28-year-old Finn becomes a team leader at the top level for the first time after completing his switch from Citroën Racing. He joins 25-year-old Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith, just 23, who have both been retained, in the WRC’s youngest driver line-up.
Lappi won a battle for the vacant Ford Fiesta seat following the departure of Elfyn Evans to Toyota Gazoo Racing. Other drivers who started discussions with M-Sport Ford included Andreas Mikkelsen, Craig Breen and Hayden Paddon.
Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm last drove a Fiesta in 2012 when they won the Finnish Championship with a clean-sweep of victories. The pair claimed three second-place WRC finishes in 2019.
Fellow Finn Suninen, partnered by experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, contests his second full season in the WRC’s headline category. Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson will tackle nine rounds - Monte-Carlo, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Germany and GB.
Finns Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen delivered back-to-back manufacturer world titles for M-Sport in 2006 and 2007 and managing director Malcolm Wilson is enthusiastic about the new era of Nordic drivers.
“We’re going back to our roots in more ways than one this year – fielding a young team and welcoming two sets of Finns back to the family,” he said.
“We enjoyed some fantastic results with Marcus, Mikko and Jari-Matti (Latvala), and now I’m looking forward to seeing how the next generation of Flying Finns develop.
“Our core philosophy has always been the promotion and progression of young talent, and in Esapekka, Teemu and Gus we have three talented youngsters who are all capable of delivering some strong results.”
Lappi said he was excited to see what could be achieved in his latest career step.
“M-Sport Ford has a real passion for rallying and there were a lot of talented drivers available for this seat, so I’m very happy they put their trust in us, giving myself and Janne an opportunity to show what we can do in 2020.
“We start testing this week, and I’m really looking forward to discovering the Fiesta. The last time I drove a Ford we had a lot of success and it would be great to see that continue this year. I can’t wait to get started and hope we can push for some strong results,” he added.